Fall Sports Recap: Cross Country Strikes Again for Franklin High School Lightning

Franklin runner Charlie North (middle) turns the final bend in the Men’s 5,000 Meters 6A race at the OSAA 6A Men’s Cross Country State Championships. North led the way for the men’s team in a fourth-place finish, continuing a run of consecutive top-five state finishes since 2016 for the team. Photo by Aaron Ramsey.

On November 6, Franklin High School’s varsity cross country teams—both men’s and women’s—finished in the top four in Oregon’s State Championships, a 5-kilometer race, with senior runners Charlie North and Kaiya Robertson finishing in the top three in their respective 5K races. The women’s team’s fourth-place finish was Franklin’s best in any women’s sport since the early 1980s. North and Robertson each finished in second place at a regional race held in Lakewood, Washington, on November 20.

After a long day of rain and wind, the sky cleared at Lane Community College during the 6A state championships. However, mud and soft dirt throughout the course, brought on by a rainy day, limited the run times of the meet’s contestants at the state championship course. According to Franklin Cross Country head coach Jacob Michaels, none of the 6A runners at any school recorded a personal-best time.

Franklin’s men’s team has finished among the top five teams in Oregon every year since 2016, according to Michaels, with a number of runners on both teams receiving scholarships to top Division I colleges in that span. They won the state title in an undefeated 2019 season, the school’s first state win in any sport since 1959, a week before the men’s soccer team would add a state trophy of its own to the mantle. In an increasingly competitive Portland, where several teams have made the national rankings this year alone, Franklin continues to be one of the city’s best teams despite being a neighborhood school.

North finished behind the first-place competitor by just 0.8 seconds in an extremely tight race where the fourth-place finisher took just 5.3 seconds longer than the winner. “It was a little bittersweet,” he says of the race, “because I thought I had it in the last 110 meters. But I felt confident in myself knowing that I did everything I could.” North’s personal best time of 14:40 ranks highest among all runners in the state this year, according to Athletic.net.

At the Oregon state meet, behind Kaiya Robertson, the school’s record holder in the Women’s 5K, for Franklin’s Women’s Cross Country team were Marin Kauffman-Smith (10), Gigi Bareilles (10), Robertson’s sisters Hailie and Emily (both freshmen), Alena Krull (12), and Avani Stevens-Rose (11). Many of the runners behind Kaiya finished with similar times because they were staying in packs, which help runners maintain pace. “You’ll try to stick with a teammate who’s ahead of you,” says Stevens-Rose, “and then we’ll try to push each other to run faster.”

The team, which is in large part composed of runners who participate in both cross country and track and field, practices for most of the year together, including going to a camp in Oregon’s Three Sisters where they run for as many as 16 miles in a given day. “[The run]’s very hilly and rocky and [we]’re climbing over things,” says Robertson. “But that’s one of the things that we [get to] say, like, ‘What did you do?’ ‘A 16-mile run.’ [It’s] kind of a shocker.”

In other events during the fall sports season, the men’s varsity soccer team finished 7-5-4, 17th in Oregon, before losing to eventual state champion Summit High School 5-0 in the state’s Round of 16. It was a somewhat disappointing result after the team’s Cinderella run to the 6A state trophy in 2019, when 14th-seeded Franklin upset Summit in the title game. Still, Head Coach Jose Milian, who completed his first year coaching at the school, feels encouraged by the growth from his squad. “We bonded really well,” he says of the team. “I think this was a team [where] everyone liked each other. Everyone actually saw each other as brothers, everyone had each others’ backs, and [there] were no bad feelings or any friction amongst players.”

The women’s varsity soccer team finished a disappointing 1-13. Sophomore midfielder and defender Ella Callanan earned first-team All-Conference honors for the Portland Interscholastic League (PIL). First-year Head Coach Diana Diaz-Diurych, who has been with the school for four years, did not know she would be the varsity head coach until later in the summer, which prevented early preparation. “I don’t want the full focus to be on the scoreboard, but winning is fun,” she says. “Going into a full year knowing that I’m going to be the head coach and can start creating the structure early” will help the team next year. 

The varsity football team started the year 0-6 but won its final three games. After a 2020-21 season, limited by COVID-19 and delayed from fall 2020 to spring 2021, in which 50 people joined the team at the start of the year, 74 joined during the 2021-22 season, a significant improvement over the previous year.

The varsity volleyball team went 6-13 for the year. In the 2019 season, the last full year, they finished 8-10, and they went 5-13 the year before that.

This article and other student journalism can be found in the Southeast Examiner.

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